Professor giving a lecture to students in old main

Reflections on Interim in Ireland

Wofford students share a tongue-in-cheek point and counter-point on the benefits of studying abroad

Kelsey Sheep 382
2016-02-08

An insider's guide to the perils of studying abroad in January
by Kelsey Aylor, Wofford Class of 2018



Since 1978, Wofford students have been traveling to Ireland for their Interim courses. Held every few years, these trips may be considered the opportunity of a lifetime. However, after experiencing it firsthand, I have learned that this isn’t a trip, but rather a trap. Here are seven reasons that Ireland should be avoided at all costs.

1. If you have a fear of cute cuddly things, DO NOT go to Ireland. There are more sheep than people on the island, their colorful bums dot the landscape whether you’re in the city or the country, and they have the tendency to approach you. If you want a fluff-induced panic attack, Ireland is the place for you. Otherwise, avoid it at all costs.

2. Some people cite Chicago as having the best pizza in the world. Others declare their undying love to New York style pizza. Few would consider Irish pizza. But prepare for your life to be turned upside down because the pizza and Italian food in Ireland is out of this world. Its American counterpart will forever be glaringly mediocre. Ireland can and will ruin your love for Italian food because once you return, it will never be as good.

3. If you are an emotionless person, never listen to traditional Irish music. Even the happy songs are full of emotion that you will be unable to comprehend and appreciate. If you dislike instruments like flutes and fiddles, Irish music is not for you because not only are these heavily used, they also combine to form beautiful, melodious harmonies. Justin Bieber is better any day, right?

4. In Ireland the three primary colors are not red, blue and yellow; they’re gray, green and blue. You will see some of the most vibrant shades of blue and green, so much so that your elementary school art classes will be put to shame. These colors are inescapable. Your whole life has been a lie. The realization that you haven’t truly seen blue skies, green grass and gray storm clouds unless you’ve been to Ireland very well may rock your world and send you hurtling into a pit of despair. Don’t loathe the color wheel. Stay home.

5. Taking photos in Ireland is just too hard. How are you supposed to capture the view when all parts of it are absolutely stunning? Unless you are highly skilled in taking panorama photos, you might as well not even bother trying to take a good shot. The constantly changing landscapes will give you a breathtaking sensory overload. How can something so beautiful actually exist?

6. Do thoughts of Leonardo Dicaprio’s and Kate Winslet’s ill-fated love story cause you emotional distress? Whether you love or hate the movie “Titanic,” Ireland is home to monumental locations in the history of the ship. It was built in Belfast, and its last port of call was in current-day Cobh. Therefore, throughout Ireland you will find various Titanic paraphernalia, known for inducing bittersweet tears and/or furious anger. Avoid the messy emotions. Stay at home.

7. If sitting in a room full of cats is preferable to sitting in a room full of people, avoid Ireland. Not only are the sheep friendly (see the first point), so are the people. They will talk to you. No amount of eye-contact avoidance, brusque responses or generally standoffish, antisocial behavior will prevent a friendly Irishman or woman from talking to you.

Don't go to Ireland unless you are prepared to meet a lot of strangers who are ready to become your new BFF. If you have a fear of talking to unknown and/or elderly people, Ireland is absolutely unsuitable.

In all seriousness (and if you haven’ t been able to detect the sarcasm by now), going to Ireland during Interim was probably the best decision I’ve made in my college career thus far. I had an amazing time learning about a new culture, reliving the vibrant history and traditions, viewing some of the most gorgeous sights on earth and deepening bonds and relationships with wonderful and thoughtful people. If you have the means and ability to do so, I would wholeheartedly recommend traveling abroad during Interim. If you’re ever unsure of which travel project to pursue, the Ireland trip will undoubtedly have my vote in years to come.

 

Perils? What perils? Read on for seven more reasons to spend Interim in Ireland
by Sarah Madden, Wofford Class of 2017


The Interim trip to Ireland is one of Wofford’s oldest and is full of tradition. Why should you spend two weeks on an island that’s home to more sheep than people? Here are seven of many reasons to visit the land of “40 shades of green.”

1. A trip to Ireland is automatic permission to eat meals that rival your best Thanksgiving dinners — for two weeks straight in our case. You will have access to at least one kind of potato per meal, if not more. This connection to Ireland’s staple food will help you learn about the severe impact of the Great Potato Famine as well as sustain you through long days of traveling, hiking and touring. If (when) you get sick of potatoes, you will be indescribably thankful for the salads and sandwiches you receive. The food in Ireland is just great!

2. What else do you do in Ireland but visit the Guinness museum and drink a free pint of the famous stout — if you are of age, of course — at a glass-walled bar overlooking Dublin’s skyline at sunset? If drinking Guinness is not your thing, that’s okay, because you’ll get to enjoy many sightseeing stops courtesy of the Guinness family’s heavy involvement in Ireland’s history and culture. You will see the Guinness family name everywhere, from pubs to historical sites and museums that the family assisted financially. Thank you, Guinness.

3. If Guinness is the most popular beverage to try in Ireland, Irish coffee is a close second. Supposedly invented by cold and miserable soldiers passing exorbitant amounts of time in a small Irish airport, this drink can be found in almost any pub or restaurant, and you can easily find various recipes. It’s yet another thing you have to try in Ireland to get the full experience.

4. Folklore and faerytales are everywhere in Ireland. You’ll visit circle forts and see lone trees in the middle of cow pastures that are supposedly portals to the faery world. You’ll hear of leprechauns and changelings and the story behind Giants’Causeway. It will only add to the magic of the views! Pro tip: Even if you don’t believe any of the folklore, climb the 106 stairs in the Blarney Castle and kiss the Blarney Stone... it’s supposed to give you eloquence, but I’ll let you decide for yourself if it’s true.

5. Your coach driver and tour guide extraordinaire will become one of your best friends and the first person you go to for exploring advice or for a good story. If you’re lucky, you’ll get Joe Fahy, who’s driven Wofford students around Ireland on multiple occasions and comes HIGHLY recommended. Pro tip: He loves chocolate of any kind and is always willing to help you eat yours.

6. Have you ever been in a small town that never ended? This is how Dublin feels. It’s awesome. It feels old, quaint, but also lively and energetic in a non-overwhelming kind of way. Even the self-professed country folk will enjoy this city. It is incredibly walkable, and there are lots of shopping and social opportunities.

7. Believe it or not, Ireland has a very temperate climate with a similar temperature range to Spartanburg. In fact, it’s usually warmer in Ireland than it is at Wofford in January... you certainly won’t get much snow (save occasionally in the mountains). You’ll learn to dress in multiple layers to combat the wind and you’ll be surprised by how comfortable you are walking around Dublin or even on the Cliffs of Moher. One caveat: you don’t know wind until you’ve almost been knocked over by gusts at the Cliffs of Moher. You will make great memories accidentally smacking your friends in the face, holding each other upright and pointlessly attempting to get a normal-looking group photo. You will be impressed. The land will literally demand your attention... and you bet it deserves it.

Both Kelsey and I struggled to articulate how rewarding it is to visit Ireland for Interim, but don’t let that stop you. Talk to any of the other 18 students who also went, and they’ll tell you the same thing... hopefully with more eloquence than we can (we’re not convinced that kissing the Blarney Stone did us any good). Pro tip: go see it for yourself!

Kelsey Aylor and Sarah Madden write for the Wofford College Old Gold and Black student newspaper. Read their full story and other stories of interim on the OG&B online.